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E-readers: Devices let people bring the library home

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Since she got a Kindle 2 in February, Kathleen Hughes doesn’t spend much time in bookstores.

The Heritage Plantation resident still shops at Litchfield Books if she’s buying a gift for someone, she said.

But all the reading material she buys for herself is purchased from her Kindle, Amazon.com’s e-book reader, and delivered directly to the device.

“I feel kind of bad about it,” said Hughes, who always tried to support local bookstores, “but I also think Kindle is moving things toward non-print books and that’s better for the environment.”

An avid reader and a frequent traveler, Hughes said she loves her Kindle and would never want to do without one again.

“Two years ago, we took our boat down to Florida for seven weeks and I took bags of books with me so I wouldn’t run out,” Hughes recalled.

“My husband used to think it was funny. We’d pack light, but then I’ve have the book bag.”

Those days are done. Now, all Hughes has to do is pack her Kindle and she’s set.

The device will hold more than 1,500 books and if nothing already stored in its library appeals at the moment, users can buy new books from anywhere, without need for a Wi-Fi signal. It works in much the same way ringtones are downloaded to cell phones.

Wherever I go, I can just turn it on,” Hughes said. “I’ve always got a signal.”

In addition to books, magazines and major newspapers can be downloaded.

Other devices require a computer for purchase and transfer of e-files.

The Kindle 2 is built like a tablet, just over one-third of an inch thick and weighing only 10.2 ounces. With a cover to protect it from damage, Hughes said the feel of it is much like holding a traditional paperback.

The press of a button turns the page and there’s a feature that allows users to make notes in the margins or search a particular word or phrase. The Kindle 2 also has the capability to read books aloud and has a dictionary so people can look up unfamiliar words while reading.

One of the most popular features of e-readers is that they allow users to adjust type size. That’s one of Sally Hare’s favorite things about her device, the Sony Portable Reader.

She received the device as a gift a few years ago when it first came out, she said, but it hasn’t changed her book-buying habits.

While Hare, of Surfside Beach, said she doesn’t regret getting the device, she prefers traditional books.

“I do want to like it, because I am a fantastic reader and I travel a lot and it makes life so much easier not to have to carry lots of books,” she said. “I just find that I miss books. I like holding books and smelling books. I like turning pages and the way they feel. And I like to pass them on when I finish with them, something you can’t do with an e-reader.”

Though e-books may be better for the environment, Hare said she’d much rather “rescue” used books.

The cost of e-books is also a deterrent to Hare making the switch, she said.

New books aren’t significantly less expensive in electronic format in Hare’s opinion, though there are a number of books, including classics, that are available for free on e-reading devices.

Hare uses her device mostly to download PDF documents she reads for work, which saves her from having to print them out. An education consultant, she also put notes for work into PDFs and puts those on her e-reader.

“I think e-readers are a great concept,” she said. “They just haven’t gotten there yet. I’d like to be able to store reference books and books that I’m constantly going back to for work, but a lot of those aren’t available as e-books yet.”

In the future, Hare said she’d like to see more textbooks available in electronic format and e-readers used more by students. That would keep them from carrying heavy textbooks back and forth, and would also make it easier and less expensive to distribute revised editions of textbooks to include the most up-to-date information.

“It makes sense to me that [e-readers] will become more important,” Hare said. “There’s a lot of potential there, and I think its time is still coming.”

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